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Bohemian Rhapsody

The rock group Queen probably don’t need any introduction. Famed for their hit songs of the 1970’s and 80’s, their influence is still felt. Much of their success was due to singer Freddie Mercury, whose energetic charisma carried the band to massive heights. Whilst Mercury is no longer with us, his legacy as well as the songs he performed endures. Several of their tracks have been used in multiple films, such as their soundtrack to the 1980 sci-fi classic ‘Flash Gordon’. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ charts their fortunes in the often topsy-turvy world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

In the early 70’s, singer Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) forms the group Queen alongside his friends Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazello). With their contrasting musical styles ranging from rock, pop and hints of opera, the band initially find it difficult establishing their fanbase. Gradually with diverse tunes such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We are the Champions’ and ‘Radio Ga Ga’, their popularity is assured. With the highs come the lows as they face personal tragedy amidst the fleeting allure of fame and fortune.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is an often clichéd and formulaic movie biopic. Queen’s path to success is generally seen in a dot-to-dot manner with all the usual tropes ticked. Only occasionally does it truly fly which is mostly during the concert sequences and still electrifying songs. Making ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ watchable is Malek’s performance which captures Mercury’s charismatic showmanship and determination. His relationships with the group and others provide most of the interest even if the script plays things very safe.

The film feels sanitized with the revisionist history going into over-drive. Mercury’s life was fascinating and debauched with the story barely capturing the true person. This water treading extends to the rest of the characters who make little impact except for Mike Myers as a harried record executive. The songs and fantastic cinematography go a long way in conveying the power of Queen’s music with the scenes set in the 1985 Live Aid concert especially dynamic.

Like a covers band who don’t quite capture the genuine essence of its subject, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is only entertaining on a surface level. There isn’t much underneath with the screenplay apparently too scared to further explore a complex performer. As a ‘Reader’s Digest’ or ‘Wikipedia’ version of Queen/Freddie Mercury history it’s fine with the tunes still having an impression decades after their creation.

Rating out of 10: 6

Halloween

Since 1978 John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ series has scared audiences. The tale of a masked maniac stalking teenagers blazed a trail for countless similar franchises such as ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘Friday the 13th’. Reaching its 11th entry, ‘Halloween’ ignores the sequels and directly follows on from the first movie. This streamlines the story without being hampered by the increasingly confusing mythology. ‘Halloween’ attempts to be a straight up thrill-ride with October 31 looking deadlier than ever.

Forty years after his killing spree terrorized the citizens of Haddonfield, Michael Myers (Nick Castle) is safely locked away at Smith’s Grove Sanatorium. One of his few surviving victims, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), is still haunted by his actions. Suffering from ongoing post-traumatic stress, Laurie has attempted to move on with life by raising her daughter Karen (Judy Greer). Unfortunately evil soon rears its vicious head as Myers escapes custody. The murderous trail swiftly begins anew as Myers hunts Laurie that leads to a showdown between old enemies.

The main question viewers want answered about ‘Halloween’ is if it’s scary. It has its moments as Laurie increasingly warns others of the dangers they face. Curtis portrays a woman scarred by the past very well, proving what an accomplished actress she is. Laurie isn’t weak and will take the fight to Michael. Her relationship with her family also defines her rage with several smart set-pieces showing Laurie’s determination in exorcising her demons. ‘Halloween’ is one of the better acted entries with director David Gordon Green re-invigorating a series that was in danger of becoming a parody of itself.

Whilst the performances and overall story are involving, the ratio of genuine scares is low. Like many recent horror movies, ‘Halloween’ ironically seems too afraid to push the boundaries of terror in favour of cheap jump-scares. The lack of music highlights this as the moody tension of the original is missing. Copious editing would have also helped as ‘Halloween’ feels overly long which saps any much-needed creepy atmosphere. Thankfully it isn’t a gore-fest despite the high body count and the character development is stronger than previously.

Although not exactly a return to form, ‘Halloween’ sits near the top of the franchise’s scoreboard. It notches up a few decent thrills but not enough to call it truly scary. But it’s always a pleasure seeing Jamie Lee Curtis further developing her iconic role that not even the blade of Michael Myer’s knife could subdue.

Rating out of 10: 6